This seemingly simple vegetable transforms into a mouth-watering masterpiece dish when it is combined with other local delicacies.
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The kangkong, or water spinach, is a versatile vegetable with a hollow stem. Scientifically classified as water convolvulus, this leafy vegetable is readily available in Malaysian markets and stores and is a commonly used dish in mainstream Malaysian cuisine. It is often found growing naturally near waterways as it requires little or no care at all. As the plant grows easily, requiring very low maintenance, it is a very economical vegetable.
Due to its versatility, kangkong is often used in many dishes both in Malay and Chinese cuisine. For example, most Chinese traders serve stir fried kangkong as a side dish for nasi lemak, together with other condiments like roasted peanuts, deep fried anchovies and chilli paste.
One of the most well-known kangkong dishes is kangkong belacan, which is kangkong stir fried with dried shrimp paste and chilli. It is a common dish offered in most of the Malay stalls and is normally served for lunch or dinner. The dish slowly became a hit not only with the Malays but also the Chinese, so much so that one can now find it being offered in most Chinese restaurants as well. Slight modifications were made to the recipe by adding dried shrimp into the mix to enhance the aroma of the dried shrimp paste and chilli.
Sotong kangkong, or cuttlefish with kangkon, is another famous dishe. It consists of blanched cuttlefish and kangkong topped with a gravy made out of thick shrimp paste, chilli paste, dark soy sauce, tamarind paste and sweet soy sauce. Roasted chopped groundnuts and sesame seeds are then sprinkled over the gravy, giving the dish a hint of crispiness and bite to it. This dish is very famous in Penang and is slightly pricier, especially in foodstalls located nearby tourist hotspots. The vegetable is also liberally used when serving prawn mee, another dish that is famous in Penang.